UK health groups lobby for soft drink tax

29th January, 2013 by Tom Bruce-Gardyne

The UK health lobby has turned its guns on soft drinks in the run-up to this year’s Budget (20 March), with the proposal of a sales tax of 20p per litre.

Cuba Libre

Cocktails like the Cuba Libre that features cola would increase in price if the proposed soft drink tax is passed

Over sixty organisations including the Royal College of Paediatrics and Sustain are backing the proposal which they claim would raise £1.1bn from the 5.7bn litres of sweet, fizzy drinks sold in Britain.

“Just as we use fiscal measures to discourage drinking and smoking and help prevent people from dying early, there is now lots of evidence that the same approach would work for food,” said Sustain’s chairman, Mike Rayner.

But the head of The British Soft Drink Association, Gavin Partington, hit back, saying; “Obesity is a serious and complex problem, but a tax on soft drinks, which contribute just 2% of the total calories in the average diet, will not help address it” and that “61% of soft drinks contain no added sugar.”

With the heat off ‘big alcohol’ for a change, spirits producers might welcome the news, but of course the measures would punish the UK’s hard-pressed on trade who are already struggling with punitive taxes on beers, wines and spirits.

There is also the large quantity of soft drinks used in popular cocktails like the Cuba Libra. Besides, alcoholic drinks are due a 2% tax rise above inflation in March due to the Government’s duty escalator.

According to the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, duty and VAT now accounts for 74% of the price of an average bottle of spirits in the UK, and that proportion will rise after the Budget.

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